Maccabi a surprise 3-0 winner over Olympiakos

NICOSIA – Nigerian striker Yacubu Ayegbeni scored a hat-trick late on Tuesday as Maccabi Haifa stunned Olympiakos 3-0 in a Champions League game. What made the victory even more stunning was the fact that Olympiakos had crushed last season’s finalist Bayer Leverkusen 6-2 last week, while competition debutant Maccabi had come crashing down at Old Trafford, losing 5-2 to Manchester United. Maccabi was the home team, but the game was played in Cyprus – where Olympiakos is popular – because of security concerns in Israel. The 4,000 Israeli fans were outnumbered by 16,000 Greek and Cypriot Olympiakos fans. Maccabi was presented with a gift in the 27th minute, when Valid Badeer shamelessly dived down in Olympiakos’s area, and the referee ruled he was pushed. Ayegbeni took the penalty and coolly stroked the ball to the back of the net, sending Olympiakos goalkeeper Dimitris Eleftheropoulos in the opposite direction. Despite this, Maccabi outran and outplayed Olympiakos and was the deserving winner. In the 60th minute, Ayegbeni caught the Olympiakos defense flat-footed, dribbling past Olympiakos defender Christos Patsatzoglou before sliding the ball past the goalkeeper and into the net. In the 85th, an unmarked Ayegbeni picked up a cross in front of Eleftheropoulos and lobbed the ball into the net. «A 2-0 win would have done this game justice, but 3-0 is truly amazing, a landmark win,» Maccabi coach Yitzhak Shum said after the match. Olympiakos coach Takis Lemonis was stunned. «My men were still thinking of last week’s win over Bayer Leverkusen,» he said. «I knew Haifa were a good team with a good attack and I was not surprised by them, what does shock me is the 3-0 loss, it is a very heavy defeat.» Scuffles erupted early yesterday morning at Larnaca airport after hundreds of Maccabi fans found themselves sharing the departure lounge with frustrated Olympiakos supporters. (Combined reports)